Religious, Irreligious, Immigrant: Young Turkish Women’s Identities and Perceptions of Religion, Science, and Morality

What do Turkish female college students think about the relationship between religion and science? In what ways do they draw on science and religion in defining their identities? How do they navigate the authorities of science and religion in constructing, expressing and justifying their social and moral values? This qualitative, interview-based study seeks to answer these questions from a comparative perspective, with a sample comprising religious college students of Turkish origin living in the United States, as well as religious and irreligious college students in Turkey, In this fashion, it studies the influence of gender, immigration, and education on the ways in which young Turkish women view religion and science. The interview sample will comprise 90 female college students, 60 in Turkey and 30 in the US, and the semi-structured interviews will include questions on three issues: 1. Perceptions of the relations between science and religion; 2. the influence of scientific and religious authority on the construction of worldviews, and the definition and justification of values; and 3. the influence of identity-based and contextual factors such as gender, education, and migration. Transcribed data will be coded using NVivo software, paying additional attention to expressions of emotion and cues about the salience of specific issues to the respondents. References to self-identity and boundaries between self and other, and remarks in which respondents compare themselves to others (or Islam to other religions) will be coded to explore how attitudes toward science and religion contribute to the imagination of identities. Data from Turkey and the US will be analyzed both as single case studies and comparatively. Using these approaches, the study will not only improve our understanding of the Turkish case, but contribute to the sociology of science and religion by focusing on the connections between attitudes toward science and religion and identity – in the form of gender, immigrant, religious, or irreligious.